Empowering a Human Work Culture

What is going to be the role of humans in the future of manufacturing? We have to take that into account because in the end, if we have a very nice industry that is highly technological, but humans are of no use… We have not succeeded.


Rebranding Manufacturing as Human-Centred

Rebranding manufacturing has the potential to attract and grow a new and more diverse workforce.

How might we look at the importance of manufacturing’s reputation from the perspective of society and bring the sector up to date with a modern work culture? Currently, manufacturing needs a rebranding response to a diminishing workforce. This would be an opportunity to address the underrepresentation of women and people of colour, people with disabilities, as well as industry’s failure to meet the needs of younger generations and thereby attract new talent.

There is no manufacturing without people. Machines will never entirely replace humans in the workforce, but make jobs that are repetitive or labour intensive redundant. There is an opportunity for the industry to build a human-centred manufacturing system, improving daily tasks and work environments to create more meaningful experiences for workers. The ultimate goal of a rebrand should be to showcase accessible, flexible and sustainable ways of building a career in manufacturing open to all – especially inclusive of those whose roles are directly affected by automation.

New Workforce Trends for New Ecosystems

A transforming industry must lead with positive changes to working culture and job roles.

How can manufacturing positively influence emerging workforce trends and job roles in response to digital transformation of the industry? The shift from factory floor work to roles focused on monitoring, supervision and optimisation already demonstrates benefits of providing better flexibility and work-life balance for employees and future generations. However, the risk of precarious working terms and increasing inequality in the labour market remains and may become more prevalent in the future.

New jobs created by Industry 4.0 (I4.0) are likely to be part-time, temporary, on-call work and so on, which can lack worker protection and security. Also, the requirements of a highly skilled workforce can result in more arduous conditions for middle- or low-skilled roles. Therefore, manufacturing must take responsibility within this changing environment by developing decent, resilient roles across all skill levels to co-exist with automation – for positions that embrace strong data-science skills, digital literacy, and ethical capabilities when dealing with AI alongside human skills, such as creativity, empathy and systems thinking.

Developing Future-Ready Learning Models

Innovative approaches to re- & upskilling are integral to reaching the potential of I4.0.

The success of I4.0 depends not only on technological development, but also on efforts to prepare a future-ready workforce. And while commitment is needed to the essential phases of reskilling and up-skilling, (lifelong) learning opportunities must also adapt and keep up with how rapidly demands of the workforce arise and change.

To initiate action, business leaders, educators, and governments must co-create traditional and non-traditional routes for learning that are accessible, affordable and keep a competitive pace. This will involve innovation around how skills should be learnt, for example through a performance-first approach that is context-specific and embeds learning in the everyday. Being proactive with I4.0 skills alignment is urgent and necessary for the endurance of an inclusive, human and sustainable industry and society.